Thursday, December 01, 2005

In passing...Stan Berenstain

I must admit I'm not the world biggest Berenstain Bears fan. Like most early-childhood literature, it's almost too antiseptic. Plots unfold in predictable, saccharine fashion. Conflicts are glossed over. Everyone smiles too much. It's about as far from the real world as one can possibly get.

Then again, who says early-childhood needs to represent the real world? I'm not an early-child - despite what some folks who know me might think. I'm no expert on what children really want to read. Given the fact that little man often asks for a BB book to be read to him almost every night, it can't be a bad thing. And when his big sister reads a BB book to him, the scene is almost too precious for words.

So I've developed a grudging respect for this genre of kid-lit. It's often the first reading a child will do. It represents a gentle introduction into the world of words, and it brings comfort when the real world around them may seem decidedly uncomfortable for them (school yards can be tough places, after all.)

Stan Berenstain passed away this week. He and his wife, Jan, started drawing their famous characters in 1962, and worked with Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) to get it right. One thing sticks in my mind as I think of his passing: Stan and Jan started drawing together over 20 years earlier, when they met at art school. Poignant.

I can't help but think that so much of them was wrapped up in these characters that kids so very much admired. A love story that began two generations ago still manages to touch my own children today. Nothing boring about that. I owe you many thanks, Stan.

Your turn: How has children's literature changed your - and/or your kids' - lives?

One more thing: The Hartfourd Courant's Kathleen Megan puts it all in its proper perspective in this piece, Berenstain Legacy: Cozy Memories.


Moogie said...

It's interesting to me how the views change as the children get older. Currently, my youngest loves all things Amelia Bedelia (I'm not sure I spelled that right), or Madelline..those two girls rock. :) And they are always getting into so much trouble. Good stuff.

My older went through a phase of the Babysitters Club books. She really loved Junie B Jones as well. Now she is more into kids mysteries, or Lizzie McGuire. She also enjoys Captain Underpants. In her case, she will read a book and if she really likes it, she has me read it as well. I find that I am as caught up with the characters as she is.

Kath said...

I had no idea that he had passed away. Thanks for the update. My daughter LOVES the BB's...she is 7 and has loved them for years. My son, is 14, and his BB books have been passed down to my 7 year old. Occassionally, when we are reading a BB book before bed (has that for aliteration?), he'll sneak in, sit on the bed and listen in.

My daughter also loves Junie B Jones, Judy Moodie and all those other annoying little brats but she always comes back to the BB's.

Uisce said...

oh how sad! we would read those (my kids and I) in dentist offices and the like. there is only one of their books on the shelf at home, and it's the one that teaches them how pointless it is to collect little stuffed animals. and wouldn't you know it, my kids never did get the beanie baby fever all that much!

Sandy said...

Both my children and I have always had rather diverse book tastes. I've found it's not so much what we read, just that we read.

Some of my best childhood memories are pulling the covers up on my lap as a young child as my dad wedged into the little twin bed next to me to read a chapter of a real "big girl" book. It's how I read so many classics and to this day I smile just thinking of them.

My son, I think, has similar views already. He has the ability to actually read on his own now, but its not one he is willing to use often. He fears we'll not read to him, it seems, if he reads himself. So he plays around the ability and he asks for story upon story - all while cuddled up tight into his parent or grandparent. Right now we're starting Charlotte's Web with him.

Easy said...

My kids went through Dr Suess and the Berenstein Bears, then moved on to Junie B. Jones and the Animal Ark books. Now they're into everything from Harry Potter to the Chronicles of Narnia.

My oldest just finished Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, something that makes me very happy to see.

Cin said...

I heard about his passing and had myself a moment of remembrance last night. Since my sister is 4 days short of 11 years younger, I have fond memories of reading the Berenstain Bears books with her.

Children's books are one of those pleasures I haven't given up yet - I still read my old favorites (Dr. Seuss rocks!) and take a trip to the kids book section of the local library & bookstore at least once a month, for the sheer joy of perusing.

Here from Michele's!

Zephra said...

I was so excited when my children became old enough to read. I took them to the library and nearly ran over to some of my old favorites. With the invention of Harry Potter my kids became the ones who introduced me. Either way I am glad my kids love books.

The Cryer said...

Hiya Carmi!

I'm not a huge fan of the BBs, for many of the same reasons you cite. However, I appreciate the whole husband/wife team aspect of the book and now I'll try to be a little more receptive to the stories. (But does Sister have to be so darn WHINY???)

We've had tremendous luck with Dr. Seuss for my daughter. She's worked quotes from the books into everyday life, and every night she recites "Many Colored Days" with us. I love that it assigns colors to moods.

Enjoyed my stay, as always!!

Nicole said...

I love good children's literature, and I love reading just about anything to my daughter. It is both teaching time and snuggle time.

We have some books that she loves that I hate. And we have some that make me shake my head and wonder who writes this crap. Maybe I'll be a children's author when I grow up...

Here via Michelle's tonight, but I visit frequently.

utenzi said...

Michele sent me your way, Carmi.

I heard that Berenstain died the other day while listening to the radio on the way into work. I loved the artwork of the books though like you said, Carmi, the plots were a mite thin.

Since the books are so well liked, he's likely to be remembered by a number of generations of kids to come. Far longer than many authors that rely on the fickle interest of adults.

JoeC said...

Hello, Michele sent me. ahhh, well, i'm sorry i can't comment on that, but i can say that literature had made a really big impact on my sister, yeap, totally turn her to a bookworm, which helps her to excel her studies. Bravo of your views. Thx for the word.

Have a nice weekend then. Cheers!

Melody said...

I have to suggest that Mem Fox is a HUGE children's author here in Australia. All of Monet's little mates LOVE her books, including Monet. She gets so so excited by her book, Where is the Green Sheep? It comes highly recommended by Monet.

I remember when I was like 8 or 9 that Trixie Belden books were a favourite, along with my sister.

Oh, forgot to add, I'm here via Michele today. Good weekend to you!

Canadian Mark said...

I think you may have just brought a tear to my eye. Very well said.

I'm here from Michele's tonight.

As far as children's literature in my life, I sort of skipped from Mr. Mugs straight to Hans Christian Anderson, and passed the whole BB phase. Of course, I knew of them, but it was never something I was into. Still, you can tell a lot of passion went into those books.

Again, good post.

Plumkrazzee said...

I never heard he had passed, how sad. I don't really care if the plots and storylines were antiseptic....that's why I loved them!! I always wanted to live in a tree...they were one of my favorites. And now my son watches them every night at 5 o'clock, and I must admit, I watch right along!!

Michele sent me tonight.

Karen said...

You know, Berenstain Bears were never my favorite. (I had issues with the hairy feet and pointy toenails.) But they were dependable and sweet and there's far too little of that anymore. My hat's off to Stan.....and you Carmi, you wonderful writer!!

Hope you're enjoying the snow!